Personal Narrative

 

Laredo

 

            The July sunshine blared crimson red through my closed eyelids; my mind was anywhere but on my work. I looked over at the time bouncing across the sleeping computer’s screen. 3:49 PM. Time ticked by slower than I knew was possible. I watched as the seconds ticked by in slow motion. I filed papers while checking the time every few minutes. Work at the family business, Wiley’s Cleaning Service, was often quite mind-numbing and repetitive. I couldn’t wait until it was five o’clock, when the working day would be over. At that time, my dad would be able to think about calling Phil, his long time high school friend, about ‘my’ Jeep.

I had never seen this Jeep, which I called mine. My dad promised he would call Phil about it. Phil owned three Jeeps total, but he only drove the newest one. The second one belonged to his son, whom was in jail for drinking and driving. The third, sat forlorn in a dusty garage. He promised he would call tonight. I felt the need to give this Jeep a proper home.

For a couple years, it had been my dream to have a Jeep Wrangler. Most girls don’t truly care what their first car is; if they do, they dream excessively. Some girls wanted Corvettes or Ferraris—not me. A Jeep suited my personality. Similar to the Jeep slogan—“Jeep. There’s only one.”—I am individualistic. Little did I know that this particular Jeep resembled me more than any other. This one was loud, stood out, and was never afraid.

My patience was tested that night. I was tempted to ask my dad to pick up the telephone, punch in seven digits, and speak a few measly words. My dad is the type of laid back man who is never in a hurry; he enjoys the means as much as the goals. I had more control than I thought. After dinner, my dad called Phil. It was finally set. I would get to go see the Jeep on Saturday afternoon. It was only Thursday; Saturday seemed ultimately far away. I waited—I had no choice.

Saturday finally rolled round. At noon, on the dot, my dad and I locked up the shop and hopped into his truck. Nothing was new about our process of leaving. Rather than turning right out of the driveway to drive the two miles home, he veered left and drove farther into town.

I could picture myself, in this mystery Jeep. I imagined what my life would be life if I were to be the proud owner of a Jeep. Memories flashed through my head of me driving my mom’s Dodge minivan, except I changed the vehicle to a Jeep. I fanaticized about tearing through the sand dunes in Silver Lake—best friend riding shot gun and my dog in the back. The silence in the car did not mirror my excitement, thus I had to change that.

With images of my potential first vehicle in mind, I asked the only logical question, “What was your first car, Dad?”

He paused for a moment startled by the suddenness of my question for he had not been reading my mind. “1966 baby-blue Pontiac Bonneville convertible,” he said with pride. “You never forget your first car.” I could hear the wheels of his brain cranking as he replayed memories involving this precious car I knew little about.

It was a short commute before we pulled into a driveway. I had been by this house many times, it was always simply another house, on a street, in the town I lived in my whole life. I frantically paged through my memories that involved passing this now significant location. I searched high and low for and image of a Jeep sitting in the driveway. My patience was minimal and my mind unclear; I had to wait only a few more moments before I could see my Jeep. We went to the door, and Phil came out just after we rang the bell. “You Amber?” he asked me. Phil stood in the doorway wearing blue jeans—which had been worn and washed a few too many times—and a plaid button-down with the top few buttons undone.  He was beginning to bald on the top of his head—but not in the same way as my dad who had more scalp than hair.

“Yup.” I nodded and shook his rough, dry hand. He was defiantly a working-man.

“What makes you want a Jeep?” Phil asked as we started to pace towards the garage.

“I ‘unno.” I thought for a moment. “I guess I just like ‘em a lot.” It was difficult to put into words what interested me most about Jeeps. I had only driven one once before; it was my cousin’s. I loved the freedom and openness that came with having the top off. I loved how compact they were, and yet still a four-wheel drive vehicle. The question was unexpected therefore I could not explain how it felt that I belonged in a Jeep and how we shared a personality.

Phil walked through the side door on the garage then opened the garage door. There it was. The first time I laid eyes on my baby. There weren’t any angels descending from the heavens singing glorious tunes, or an unearthly glow beaming from the vehicle, but it nonetheless felt like the movies. The emotions that flowed in my veins, and the atmosphere that surrounded me, were all faultless. “Wanna take it for a spin?” asked Phil. All I could do was smile and nod in my state of awe.n536428271_703723_96471

The first detail that I noticed was the silver make-shift back bumper in contrast to the white and black body. It was two aluminum semi-circles attached at each side—where the bumper should be. I then noticed there was no spare tire. Rust dripped down from the spare tire-holder. The white paint was rusting in various spots. It was only the back-end that was in my view, and everything about it was better than I expected.

 “It hasn’t been started up in a few months so it’ll take a while to get started. Rick, you wanna help me roll ‘er out of the garage. We’ll get ‘er going in the driveway.”

They went into the garage, popped it into neutral, and pushed it into the driveway. As they did so, I scanned the vehicle, taking in every detail. I read the word Laredo on the side, just behind the front wheel-well; from the words extended a two-toned grey strip no more than two inches thick, all the way down the side of the body.

“Why don’t you try to start it,” my dad inquired.

Phil tossed me the keys, and I almost dropped them in the process of my fumbling catch. I grasped the slightly rusted silver handle; it was cold to the touch because it had been hidden from the heat of the sun. I yanked at the door but it didn’t open. When I looked to both the guys, they merely smiled attempting to hold back their laughter. I yanked at it one more time with extra force; it popped open with a loud creek. That was the first time I laid eyes on the antiqued interior. I climbed into the driver’s seat wiggling all the way back in the chair. In order to be comfortable I adjusted the seat all the way back. I looked around at the dirty grey cloth seats, and all the insignificant flaws. The tear in the seat I was in was hidden under my thigh. There was a cigarette burn on the passenger seat, and a scratch whirling across the glove box. Each aspect I noticed added personality. I soaked it all up, hoping that I would soon be able to call all these flaws mine.

“Which key?” I asked as I held up the two silver keys on a ring. There was a square one and a round one.

“The round one unlocks the door and the square one starts it,” Phil clarified.

I stuck the square key in the ignition, and turned it. Nothing but the battery sounded. I looked puzzled and glanced towards the men for what to do next. I was afraid that it might be broken, however I still had hope.

“Pump the gas pedal once or twice.” Phil instructed. I complied. My right foot went up and then down, up and then down again atop the gas pedal, and with those few pumps I cranked the key again. For a second time, the engine did nothing but hum. I looked to them for advice with worry written on my face.

“Try hitting the gas pedal as you turn the key.”  In unison my foot went down on the gas pedal and my wrist rotated with the key in the ignition. It worked, for only a moment. The Jeep roared to life, and died off nearly as quickly. “You gotta keep the gas going to the engine once it’s started,” Phil hollered from afar.

One last turn of the key and punch of the gas pedal, and the engine was thunderous. I kept pumping the gas pedal, with each pump then engine bellowed in response. The smell of exhaust was surrounding us all. I understood why Phil didn’t want to start it in the garage. The aroma was suffocating.

“Let’s let ‘er warm up for a while before you drive,” Phil stated. “You can stop hitting the gas now.” My foot relaxed. I hopped out of the Jeep and closed the door. Behind me, the door didn’t latch, thus I tried again, this time slamming it. The entire body of the vehicle shook as the door latched into place. The men chuckled.

“What year is it?” I asked Phil as I gleamed at its oxidized glory.

“Eighty-nine.”

“Older than me,” I commented to myself. I was sixteen at the time and it was seventeen. I already loved each and every flaw it had: the rust, the dents, the retched smell of exhaust, the cigarette burned seats, and the duct taped mirrors. I glanced up and down studying everything. I was careful as to not miss a single crack in the paint or chip in the windshield.

I leaned on the front bumper between the two winch hooks, and a square headlight on either side of me. We sat and chatted about my Jeep and my life for about fifteen minutes. We discussed school and my plans for the future. Small talk never makes time go faster. Blood ran through my veins with excitement and impatience. I just wanted to get back into the driver’s seat; it felt right. I knew that I wanted this to be my first car. Nothing could make me happier. Then Phil told us that it should be ready to drive now. My dad went to the passenger side, and I to the driver’s.

I sat in my throne. I felt as if I were queen of the junk-yard. I couldn’t have been in higher spirits. I reached over my left shoulder and grabbed the seatbelt. I fumbled with the latch for a moment. Being cautious and checking every detail, I depressed the break and put the Jeep into gear. With a thud and a clank, the Jeep was in reverse. I let my foot off the break and backed up to the soundtrack of the thriving engine.

We cruised through Holland in my Jeep for nearly half an hour. I soaked up every bit of the enticing experience. We talked about the positives and negatives of the Jeep with focus on what was positive because most everything about it was perfect in my eyes.  It took me a while to get used to the steering; due to the short axel base, the steering was much different than any other kind of vehicle. There was nothing that could be done about it, still I adjusted well. We were heading West on Ottawa Beach Road, going towards Lake Michigan, when another Jeep Wrangler passed us going East. The driver of the topless red Jeep, waved to me. I thought that was fantastic. Being the owner—or presumed owner—of a Jeep is like being in your own sub-community.

We cruised down Lakeshore Drive, a winding road at the speed of fifty miles per hour. Lakeshore takes you by all the various secluded beaches of Holland. We drove just about all of the way to Grand Haven before we headed back to Phil’s through town.

When we were getting close to returning, I asked my dad what he thought, and if he could see me having this for my first car. His response was a simple “We’ll see.” I smiled, assuming that that was a positive response.

We arrived back at Phil’s place and I cut the engine on the Jeep. Phil came back outside—he must have heard the rumble of the Jeep in his driveway. He and my dad talked price for a few minutes, and I listened closely. I paid close attention to how my dad worded his sentences and the tone of his voice. I waited for any cue to his thoughts.  My dad thanked him, and said that he would call in a day or two. I also thanked Phil with a smile upon my face. I knew my dad would need some time to think about it, and talk it over with my mom. He gave no clues to his thoughts. Despite not knowing, I was still optimistic.

I put much effort into not thinking about my Jeep for the next few days. The following weekend, I went of town to the B-93 Birthday Bash—a two day festival of country music. It was a blast. My friend and I stayed in a hotel for two nights. We got to meet Eric Church and Bombshell. We saw many different country singers including Gretchen Wilson, Trace Adkins, and Jason Aldean. We were a little over an hour away from home. By the time the show was done on Sunday night, we were tired from the long weekend and abundance of sunshine. We gradually pulled into my driveway. I opened the garage door to pull my mom’s minivan back into its spot. I shrieked louder than a soprano opera singer when the door was merely halfway open. My Jeep was sitting in the garage. It was really mine, imperfections and all.

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